HISTORY: Surrey’s century-old Fall Fair lives on in new celebrations

HISTORY: Surrey’s century-old Fall Fair lives on in new celebrations

The public holiday once included an annual Surrey vs. Langley tug-of-war, ‘fattest baby’ contest, more

By Sue Bryant

Cloverdale Reporter

Today, September signifies the end of summer and the approach of autumn, children returning to school and families getting back to a normal routine. 

It wasn’t long ago that September represented more than that. In years past, September meant excitement; Cloverdale’s Fall Fair was around the corner.

The first Fall Fair was held at the Municipal Hall and fairgrounds in Surrey Centre on Friday, September 28, 1888, hosted by the District of Surrey Agricultural Association. Surrey had incorporated as a municipality less than a decade before and the Fall Fair provided a great opportunity for the community to get together and share their talents and have friendly contests with their neighbours in agricultural competitions, handicrafts and other homemade products.

At the time of the first fair, Surrey Centre was the “capital” of Surrey. It was truly the centre of Surrey in every respect; the Municipal Hall, the church and the school, as well as social halls, were all located in the district. The pioneers of that time could never have envisioned the changes that would take place in their little hamlet, which would become the thriving metropolis of more than 500,000 people we live in today.

The Fall Fair represented the best the community offered, and it was attended by one and all. The local schoolchildren would return to school a week before Labour Day, then prepare to compete against their fellow classmates in other wards. On the third Wednesday of September, the mayor proclaimed a public holiday so that all could attend and participate. Admission prices were $0.50 for adults and $0.25 for children.

The day would begin with a stock parade down McLellan Road, in which participants brought their best livestock up to the fairgrounds. The midway would be set up with games of chance such as the card game “Housie Housie” and “Coco-nut Shies.”

Entrants would compete to be recognized as the best in categories including livestock, poultry, garden and field produce, honey, canning, baking, fruit and flowers, dairy produce and needlework, to name a few. Even the local doctor, Dr. Fred D. Sinclair, was an avid competitor and won the award several years in a row for the best Johnson apples in the district.

The schoolchildren from the district’s one and two-room schoolhouses such as Surrey Centre, Strawberry Hill, Hall’s Prairie and Colebrook would vie for prizes in track and field, dog obedience, paper folding, drawing in pencil and in colour, writing and best scrapbook.

In 1934, the fair became large enough that a telephone would be installed on the fairgrounds for the exclusive use of Fair business, which was noteworthy enough to warrant an announcement in the Surrey Leader. The number for the fairgrounds was simply “Cloverdale 128.”

“There wasn’t even a ferris wheel,” Anna Bose Heppell recalled in an 1989 interview about the early days of the Fall Fair.

“They used to have little races for everybody; really had to run and somebody could outdo the other one, you know. But that was about as far as that went,” she said. “And they used to have baby shows, too and they’d give away mugs and everything for really for the fattest baby or the prettiest baby.”

By 1936, the Fall Fair boasted a record attendance of more than 3,000 people, including the large number of schoolchildren there to show off their best school project. Special events included Highland Dance competitions, horseshoe pitching, and the tug-of-war between Surrey and Langley. The tug-of-war was always one of the main attractions, given the friendly rivalry between the two towns.

In 1938, the Municipal Hall was moved from its Surrey Centre location near the cemetery to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. Some residents can still recall looking out the window from their Surrey Centre school and watching the Municipal Hall being loaded onto trucks to be taken down to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

The fair moved with the hall, and the annual Fall Fair continued on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. But times were changing. The community event was no longer a public holiday in Surrey, and, over time, the fair became larger and more commercialized, due in part to the city’s increasing population and the larger venue.

In 1996, the fall fair was incorporated into rodeo weekend, which takes place in May, ending the 109-year-old “fall” fair in some respects.

For some, however, the fall fair lives on in the annual Olde Harvest Fair held at the Historic Stewart Farm each September, which combines traditional fair activities with the new, all the while preserving the festival’s original intention: uniting Surrey residents to mark the autumn season with food, music and neighbourly competitions.

Sue Bryant is an oral historian and a member of the Surrey Historical Society. She is also a digital photo restoration artist, genealogist and volunteers at the Surrey Museum and Surrey Archives. She writes monthly for the Reporter.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Cloverdalehistory

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Taken at the Surrey Fall Fair, September 1953. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives / SM.261F)

Taken at the Surrey Fall Fair, September 1953. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives / SM.261F)

Just Posted

FILE PHOTO: Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for South Surrey and White Rock.
Snowfall warning issued for Surrey, White Rock

Accumulation of two to 15 centimetres is anticipated across B.C.’s south coast

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

White Rock Rotary Club president Mauricio Browne de Paula (front right) with other club and community volunteers at the launch of the free hot lunch program at the city parking lot at Russell Avenue and Johnston Road on May 21. (File photo)
Daily demand for White Rock Rotary, city lunch program surpasses 40

Recipients ‘are very good people… going through some tough times’

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Most Read